On the 31st May 1669, Samuel Pepys wrote the final entry of his famous diary. He stopped writing due to fear that he was losing his eyesight, but went on to live for another 34 years without developing any eye problems.

Pepys began writing his diary in January 1660, and since it was first published it has become an important source for historians studying the period of the Restoration.  It is also invaluable for its detailed eyewitness accounts of key events in London’s history such as the Great Plague and the Great Fire of London.

That Pepys recorded even the smallest and seemingly trivial pieces information is what makes his diary so enormously useful to historians.  His is the most complete and detailed record of daily life that we have access to, and Pepys’ frankness – presumably because he never intended for the diary to be published – exposes elements of life that professional memoirs would normally try to ignore.

This isn’t to say that Pepys’ diary is perfect.  He was, after all, a member of the upper-middle class and became one of the most celebrated and important civil servants of his time.  But his detailed observations on life have seen him referred to by many as the greatest diarist of all time.

By the time Pepys stopped writing his diary on the 31st May 1669, he had written over a million words of shorthand that were bound into six volumes.  They are now housed alongside the rest of Pepys’ library containing 3,000 books at Magdalen College, Cambridge.

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© Scott Allsop